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March 9, 2012ATLANTA--- North Carolina heads into Saturday's Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament semifinal with N.C. State uncertain about one of its top players, John Henson, who injured his wrist during the first half of Friday afternoon's 85-69 quarterfinal round triumph over Maryland.
The good news for UNC is that Henson didn't break anything, but the bad news is that the Tar Heels---and Henson himself---have no idea whether he'll play Saturday against the Wolfpack, or any more the rest of the weekend.
"The X-Rays didn't show anything---they said its just a sprain. I'm just going to try to ice it down, and hopefully I'll get back soon," Henson said. "I'm just going to ice it and see what happens, just wait and see what comes."
"They don't think it's a break with John. It's just he had trouble catching and gripping the basketball. It is his left wrist. That's the one he uses. That's his dominant hand, even though he is right-handed," added UNC head coach Roy Williams.
Approximately six minutes into the game Henson took an awkward fall under the baseline of his own basket, as he slumped to the court.
He noticeably grimaced and expressed pain in his wrist, holding his hand gingerly.
"My leg got caught under me, so I was more worried about getting my leg out. I kind of landed (awkwardly)," he said.
Henson left the court for several minutes but actually made an attempt to return to the game.
But after one pass from Kendall Marshall that he struggled to catch and then winced upon catching, Henson knew that his day was done.
"I didn't think it was that bad until I started holding the ball (along the sidelines)," Henson said. "I said I was going to try (to return to the game), and on that pass (from Marshall) it hurt to catch it and I couldn't shoot it. When Kendall shot that bullet across the court and I tried to catch it and couldn't catch the pass, I knew I couldn't play. It was hurting. They took the X-Rays and the pain shot and stuff and I tried to come back, I just couldn't."
"As you know, John can be dramatic from time to time. At that time, I didn't know how serious it was, but when he started squirming for a longer period of time, that concerned me," said Marshall.
At halftime the UNC medical team took the X-Rays that came back clean.
"I was worried," Henson admitted. "I was happy after the X-Rays came back and said there wasn't anything broken. At halftime I had the X-Rays. Until they took the X-Rays I was really concerned. I was just hoping I would be okay."
Henson suffered a similar wrist injury last season, and he said it almost seems like a re-aggravation of that prior injury that a completely new ailment.
"Last year, I had almost the same injury in my wrist, so we've got to play it by ear. It kind of feels the same, the same muscles. I've felt this kind of pain before," he said.
Sitting on the bench throughout the second half was undoubtedly a new experience for Henson, but it gave him some unique perspective about watching the game and picking things out from it.
"I got to sit with Blue Steel, see what they talk about, and just ice my wrist. They (Blue Steel) are more of a little cheering squad, but I joined it," he said.
"It was interesting to see how we (my teammates) were playing out there," Henson continued. "It was a great win, anytime you get up by 20 and kind of cruise to the end, and that's what we did."
Henson was particularly impressed with the way rookie James Michael McAdoo stepped in and provided a key contribution to the Tar Heels with 14 points and eight rebounds.
"James stepped up. I think everybody that came off the bench contributed," Henson said. "He (McAdoo) isjust getting more confident with the offense and with himself. He had some nice jump shots and layups. That's what he can do, and he showed it. He's a great replacement, and there's no drop-off. There's no drop-off when it comes to James."
McAdoo also provided a spark on defense as UNC held the Terrapins to 38.7 percent shooting for the game.
"Everybody just had to guard their men better because John, he's a shot blocker and usually he'll block it. Everybody that came in just stepped up their level of play because we knew John was out," added Reggie Bullock.
Even with McAdoo playing well, Coach Williams has to know that his UNC squad without Henson just flat-out isn't as capable of making a run at the NCAA title as they are with him.
With that in mind, Williams and Henson might have to make a couple of tough calls in the next 24 to 48 hours.
Do you play Henson against N.C. State Saturday, and then on Sunday in the ACC championship game if you win, knowing a re-aggravation of the injury could prove to be a detriment to the team's bigger goals?
Or do you throw caution to the wind?
At the end of the day, it may not be as much of a decision on the parts of Williams and Henson as the wrist making the decision for them.
"I think that obviously the ACC Tournament is a big deal, but we're also preparing for next week. You don't want to put him in a game that he gets hurt and then he can't play all the way through the (NCAA) Tournament. It's something that you've got to be very cautious, but you also want to play if you're able to," said UNC senior big man and ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller.
For his part, Henson wants both---to be healthy and help the Tar Heels beat N.C. State.
The only question is whether or not the wrist will hold up.
"We want to do both (win and stay healthy)."